By Kate Quesada

Young athletes from soccer clubs around the area are learning more than sports this holiday season. Players and families at clubs all over the Tampa area are participating in a Kicks for Tots, a toy drive started by the Directors of Coaching (DOC) at Florida Hawks FC and Tampa Dynamo FC to make sure that underprivileged children have gifts to open this month.

Juan De Brigard, DOC at the FishHawk based Florida Hawks FC, reached out to 52 soccer clubs in the Region C area, which covers Citrus County south to Cape Coral, asking for donations of new, unwrapped toys.

“Soccer is a huge economic force these days,” said De Brigard who took over as DOC at the Hawks earlier this year. “It is a community that has the ability to give and we are helping them channel their generosity to those who need it.”

Toys will be collected at participating clubs until December 12 at which point De Brigard will distribute them between Toys for Tots, Metropolitan Ministries and The Red Cross.

“We feel that distributing through these established charities is the safest way to make sure the toys get to those who really need them,” said De Brigard.

DOC at Tampa Dynamo FC, Dimas Amaral is working with De Brigard to collect as many toys as possible. The club, which has fields in Valrico and in Riverview’s Summerfield community, recently offered a player clinic where the cost of admission was a toy for the drive.

“The game of soccer has given me so much and I feel strongly that I have an obligation to use my role to give back to those who need,” said Amaral, who would like to make this an annual event for as many local clubs as possible. “We also want our players to realize the importance of giving back and of playing a role in the whole community, not just as soccer players.”

For more information on the collection, contact De Brigard at doc@floridahawksfc.com or Amaral at 503-2337. To learn more about Florida Hawks FC, which offers competitive and recreational soccer programs for boys, girls and adults, visit www.floridahawksfc.com. For more information on Tampa Dynamo and it’s wide variety of soccer programs in Riverview and Valrico, visit www.tampadynamofc.com.